Like many Americans I’ve been frustrated by the attitudes and actions of my fellow citizens since Donald Trump was elected and took office. But yet my somberness is not the same as the political angst being flooded throughout the media waves and coffee houses across the land. My frustration has to do with the body of Christ.
I needed this. As of last night I came off of my self-imposed Political Fast for the month of August, and honestly I’m not sure I want to go back. By a political fast I mean that I purposefully stayed away from reading anything or listening to anything having to do with the present political races of Hillary and Trump. Really the whole system as well. Sure I was tempted a few times and know that at least once I started down that road of “just to see” what the story behind the latest headline was. But I didn’t fall prey to the calling and got through August with pretty much no political writ, radio, or video. I think I’m healthier for it and not certain I want to go back to my old norm.
This is not to say that I no longer have political thinking. I am not saying that I no longer believer that some politics and laws are just bad. This is not to say that I no longer believe that some candidates are way off and therefore they will be advocating systems and laws which will hurt people.
Yes, I still intellectually and morally believe there is a clear right and wrong. Some candidates get that and others do not. But I also believe that the attention to these issues in the political sphere is no longer as high on my emotional radar screen as they once were. I always knew that the Kingdom of God is the bigger picture. It’s just taken my emotions a while to catch up. While some of these political and legal issues are indeed important; they are just not the “most important.”
So after 31 days of political and social media fasting, I’ve arrived at four things that I do know for sure and four things I plan to do.
Have you voted yet? I did my service, my privilege, a couple of weeks ago in early voting. My ballot was cast according to my world view of Christ as King and how that plays out in the here and now in my present culture of America. In recent decades there has been a growing debate about God and government, Christ and culture. Some atheist and humanist have suggested that the Constitution forbids followers of Christ from bringing their faith into the ballot box or halls of legislation. On the other hand, some Christians have rightly embraced the eternal Kingdom of God; but to the extent of ignoring the role afforded to them in helping define culture in a free political system. The truth is that both extremes are out of balance.
Tonight on the Discussions Robert and I will be joined by Dow Tippett and Justin Lopez who is the Executive Director of For the City Network in Austin, Texas. We will be taking a look at the ways we are called to practically serve the community in which we have been placed. What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the city today? Be sure to join us live on our SND Google + page and share your questions with Justin and the gang. You can also send in questions early on Face Book or the Kingdomology.com blog.
I’ve been reminded by some friends that I’m falling behind in my Kingdomology posts and they’re right. Why the delay? Well it’s partially because I’ve had a ton of irons in the fire. But I have to admit that it’s also because I’ve just been meditating a lot on the present spiritual environment of the American culture since the presidential election last month. The root of my observation is not centered on the victory of Obama over Romney, but rather something deeper. The simple truth is that the American culture we know today is light years away from what the writers of the Mayflower Compact envisioned for this new land. Obviously America still enjoys more religious freedom than most countries on the globe especially when you think of places like China or the Middle East. But the American culture at large appears to be mirroring the Roman Empire of the first century much more than the philosophy of the Pilgrims.
Now I’m not saying that the Pilgrims were perfect nor am I suggesting that we should go back to their religious dress code or imitate their legalism. Indeed they got off track in many areas like we all do. But there was something different in their core nature that is missing today in so many camps.
I’ll be honest. This election season has been a hard one for me. It was just over four years ago while planting a church in Northern California that I made the firm decision to never run for political office. While that commitment has been relatively easy to keep, the question of debate has been quite another story. The last 2012 Presidential debate has come and gone. But many of us are still debating with our friends, enemies, and even sometimes with our own souls. Debate is a great principle in our culture. However, it seems to be a whole lot easier to simply debate than actually do something. It’s easier to debate about what the government should do than actually getting out and doing something ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not turning Amish here and as noted in a post from a while back, I do believe that sometimes folks are called into public policy molding just like someone might be called into law enforcement. The great William Wilberforce from the UK is a prime example. But as a Christ follower we are all to be Salt and Light in our world even if we are not in public service or making public policy. We are called to be his hands and feet from wherever we stand on the political debates. So while this debate could take off in innumerable directions, let me simply ask what it is that we are all going to do ourselves instead of expecting someone else to do for us. Consider these to begin with:
Although I often talk about Deb and the kids on Face Book, I don’t usually write much about my family here on the blog. Maybe I should. But something interesting went on over the past few days which I suppose warrants a change in practice. John, my oldest son, was asked by his High School English teacher to write a short paragraph along with the rest of the class describing what they use as their moral compass to live by. Fair enough. But then she finished her assignment by stating that they couldn’t answer the assignment by talking about “God or something like that.” When I was taking John to his Cross Country meet later in the day he told me that for the first time he was “disobeying” one of this teachers. I asked for an explanation and then got the whole story. John did write something in accordance with his convictions and I’ve included that below from Deb’s blog where she also wrote about it. I love the way Deb described our oldest son in all his glory. (Actually, he gives all that to God) But read on and ask yourself, “when was the last time I made a stand for Christ?” Yup, that’s my boy.
If I were to entitle this post anything else, I suppose it would be something like, “The Last Will and Testament of a Young Republican.” That’s right; I was once a Young Republican a long time ago. But things are different now and it doesn’t have anything to do with age. Now before my “Lefty” friends out there get all excited, you need to know that I’m not defecting to your political party either. Rather I’m pressing the cancel button on the whole system as far as my involvement goes. While this doesn’t mean I’m never going to vote on issues I believe in, it does mean a drastic and purposeful decision to refrain from direct political involvement and commentary. Even on my Face Book page I’ve listed the “Kingdom of Heaven” for my political views. As followers of Christ we have to keep in mind that we’re part of His eternal Kingdom which supersedes the greatest Kingdoms of men. But is this stand of total avoidance too radical? After all, it would seem from the scripture that politics is a freedom issue. We even noted in Part I. of this series that we can’t separate the sacred from the secular and this would apply to politics as well. Yet considering the transitory nature of this realm, I do believe that this is an issue that Christians should seriously wrestle with. As for me, I’ve drawn the line in the sand to abstain and here are at least four reasons why.
Tonight the President of the United States is slated to give his annual State of The Union Address. I’m not sure which one will be more fun to watch; his speech or the bantering on Face Book that will follow. When it comes to dialogue on politics, it’s interesting to see all the Christ following friends I have who sit on opposite sides of the political aisle. They claim allegiance to Christ, but are polls apart in politics. But that will be part of our discussion next week when we wind this subject down and look at some of the personal reasons why I don’t swim in this pool much anymore. It is also worth noting that Jesus actually spoke very little about politics even though Conservatives and Liberals claim Him as their guy at times. In fact, we see virtually nothing of Jesus giving a commentary on the Roman government of his day. That’s because the mission of Christ is beyond that of any temporal regime. Yet we noted in Part I. that as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we’re not to cloister ourselves away from society, but rather to influence it. So what does the Bible say about our relationship to the Kingdoms of this world? Here are some pointers we should consider and while my list below is not exhaustive, it’s something to start with.
Well we’re just a couple of days away from a huge election here in the US and I figured now was a good time to address an issue that a lot of folks are thinking about: how are true followers of Christ to respond to political issues? While political discussions are not the purpose of Kingdomology, we still live on this side of eternity and we do move in and out of political relations as with any other aspect of day to day life. Authentic followers of Christ don’t shut themselves up in a monastery, but rather engage the world around them with the love of Jesus. So with that, I want to start this discussion by addressing a serious misunderstanding which is rampant in our day of Politics verses Piety.